Psalm 26
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
It seems evident that this psalm was written by some Old Testament saint who was surrounded by ungodly men, by whom he was assailed, reproached, and slandered. From them he appeals to God. By the heading of the psalm we are pointed to David as the author. And there is no reason for questioning that. Mr. Fausset, in his most suggestive book, 'Horae Psalmicae,' working along the line of "undesigned coincidences," remarks, "Another feature of undesigned coincidence is the unmistakable identity of David's character, as he reveals it in the Psalms, and as the independent historian describes it in the Books of Samuel and Chronicles. Thus the same ardent love to the house of God appears in both. How instinctively one feels the harmony between the character self-portrayed in Psalm 26:8; Psalm 27:4; and Psalm 69:9! Compare the historian's record of his words to Zadok (2 Samuel 15:25), and still more in 1 Chronicles 29:2, 3." Undoubtedly, thus read and compared, the Psalms and the history mutually throw light upon and confirm each other. But in following out our plan in this section - of dealing with each psalm as a unity - we find this, as well as all the rest, furnishing material for pulpit exposition, which we could ill afford to lose. Our topic is - Assailed integrity's final appeal.

I. WE HAVE HERE THE CHARACTER OF AN UPRIGHT MAN, SKETCHED BY HIMSELF. It may not be a very wholesome exercise for a man to be engaged in - to sketch a moral portraiture of himself. Painters have often painted their own portraits; that requires but an outward gaze on one's outer self; but to delineate one's own likeness morally requires much introspection. Few can carry on much of that without becoming morbid through the process; and fewer still, perhaps, have fidelity enough to do it adequately and correctly. Yet there may be circumstances under which such abnormal work becomes even necessary (as we shall point out presently). And when such is the case, it is well if we can honestly point to such features of character and life as are presented to us here.

1. The psalmist has a goodly foundation on which his life was built up.

(1) Trust in Jehovah (ver. 1).

(2) God's loving-kindness (ver. 3).

(3) God's truth (ver. 3); i.e. God's faithfulness.

Note: That all the supports of the psalmist's integrity were outside himself. Happy is the man that, under all the circumstances of life, can stay his mind and heart on Divine faithfulness and love. If such underlying props cease to sustain, moral and spiritual worth will soon pine from lack of motive and hope. It is one of the evils of the day that some of our most popular novelists delineate religion without God.

2. The life built up on this foundation was one which may with advantage be imitated. It was a life of:

(1) Integrity (ver. 11).

(2) Straightforward progress (ver. 1). No sliding.

(3) Avoidance of evil associations (vers. 4, 5).

(4) Cultivation of holy worship, song, and thanksgiving in the sanctuary (vers. 6-8, 12).


(a) Those to whom God is the support of their life, will show a life worthy of such support.

(b) Those who most value communion with God and a life hidden with him, will most fully appreciate and most diligently cultivate that stimulus and comfort which come from mingling with God's people in the worship of the sanctuary.

II. THE MOST UPRIGHT OF MEN MAY BE MISUNDERSTOOD, UNAPPRECIATED, MISREPRESENTED, AND ASSAILED. Speaking roughly and generally, it is no doubt true that, on the whole, a man's reputation will be the reflection of what he is, and that most men go for what they are worth. And yet, so long as there are envious hearts, jealous dispositions, unbridled tongues, few can be regarded as absolutely safe from detraction and slander. Our Lord Jesus implies and even states as much as this (cf. Matthew 5:44; Matthew 10:25; Matthew 18:6, 7; John 15:18). See Peter's words (1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 4:14); see Paul's words (Romans 12:18, 19). Paul had to boar much in the way of depreciation from some who even denied his apostleship. Job was surrounded with "miserable comforters," who thought, by defaming him, to defend God! Such trials are hard to bear. They may arise

(1) from the occasional foibles of a good man being magnified by the slanderer into sins;

(2) from the utter impossibility of bad men reading aright the character of the just and pure. Having no virtue themselves, they cannot credit others with any. "Doth Job fear God for nought?" "He hath a devil," etc. Many can say the words in Psalm 56:5.

III. IT IS AN INFINITE RELIEF, UNDER SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES, THAT THE RELIEVER CAN APPEAL TO HIS GOD. The whole psalm is such an appeal. True, the Infinite Eye can discern flaws and faults where we suspect none; but then the same perfect gaze discerns the desire after being right and pure and true, however far the believer may be from realizing his own ideal. The suppliant has to do, moreover, with One who never misunderstands, and whose glory is in his loving-kindness and truth. And from a Christian point of view we must remember that we have a High Priest who was in all points tried like as we are, yet without sin, and who can therefore pity what is frail, and pardon what is wrong. What a mercy to have such a throne of grace to which to flee

IV. THE APPEAL WILL BE MARKED BY SPECIFIC ENTREATY. Here there are four lines of supplication.

1. That God would vindicate him, and not let him be mixed up in confusion with the men whose sin he hates (vers. 1, 9, 10). He looks to God, as Job did, as his Vindicator (Job 19:25).

2. That God would search and prove him (ver. 2; cf. Psalm 139:23, 24).

3. That God would purify him (ver. 3). So the word here rendered "try" indicates. He is upright before men, but he does not pretend to be perfect before God.

4. That God would entirely deliver him from the surroundings of ungenial and unholy men (vers. 9, 10). Whether the psalmist intended any reference to a future state or no, the believer now cannot help so applying the words. Who could endure the thought of evil and good always being mixed up together? The Divine mandate is, "Let both grow together until the harvest" (Matthew 13:13). Then will come the final severance.

V. THE RESULT OF SUCH APPEAL WILL NOT BE FRUITLESS OR VAIN. (Ver. 12.) "His prayer has been heard; he is safe; he stands on the open, level table-land, where he has room to move, and where his enemies cannot hem him in; and therefore he fulfils the resolve made before (ver. 7), and publicly pours out his thanksgivings to God" (Perowne). Whoever thus lays his complaints before God will find deliverance in God's own appointed time; we must leave, however, the "when" with the great Defender. Either

(1) on earth in our day,

(2) on earth after our day, or

(3) in heaven, God will bring us and our reputation out to the light. He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday (Psalm 37:5, 6). - C.

All through the Scriptures "integrity" is commended. It is a characteristic of the saints. Whatever else they are, they must be men of integrity. This does not mean that they are morally perfect, or that they have any ground for trusting in their own righteousness; but it means that they have an "honest and good heart." Whatever may have been their past life, or however much of imperfection may still cleave to them, they are conscious of a pure intent, a firm and steadfast resolve to trust only what is true, to do only what is right, and to order their whole conduct according to the holy will of God. They can say, as Joseph's brethren did, "We be true men;" or with Paul, "We serve God with a pure conscience."

I. INTEGRITY IS ESSENTIAL TO A RIGHT RELATION TO GOD. God desireth "truth in the inward parts." All guile and falsehood are offensive to him. If we are to come to him, we must come just as we are; and if we are to abide with him, we must walk in the truth. Integrity lies at the very basis of faith, and "without faith it is impossible to please God."

II. INTEGRITY IS ESSENTIAL TO THE POSSESSION OF A TRUE CHARACTER. "There is no redeeming efficacy in right intent; taken by itself, it would never vanquish the inward state of evil at all. And yet it is just that by which all evil will be vanquished, under Christ and by grace, because it puts the soul in such a state as makes the grace-power of Christ co-working with it effectual." "The sinning man, who comes into integrity of aim, is put thereby at the very gate of faith, where all God's helps are waiting for him" (Bushnell). There is a vital connection between "integrity" and "truth" (vers. 1, 3). "Truth" is of God. "Integrity" belongs to us. We can only have truth, as we receive it from God. We can only have "integrity" as we allow God's truth to rule our hearts and our lives. First the heart is made right by being directed into the love of God, and then the life is made holy and beautiful by being swayed by the will of God. This leads to unity and completeness of character.

III. INTEGRITY IS ESSENTIAL TO THE RIGHT DISCHARGE OF OUR SOCIAL DUTIES In society we meet with "vain persons," "dissemblers," and "evil-doers" (vers. 4-6). This is a test and an education. A man is known by his friends. There is a power for good in good companionships, and for evil in evil companionships. But if we are walking in truth, we cannot but hate all that is alien and hostile to truth. Our choice will be truth, and not vanity. Our delight will be in honesty, not in "dissemblers." Our fellowship will be with the righteous, and not with "evil-doers" (Psalm 119:63). It is only as we ourselves are true that we can commend the truth to others. It is only as we ourselves are upright in all our dealings that we can secure respect and confidence, and that we can best advance the interests of religion.

IV. INTEGRITY IS ESSENTIAL TO FULL DELIGHT IN RELIGIOUS ORDINANCES. (Vers. 6 -8.) There are some who are neglectful (Hebrews 10:25); there are others who satisfy themselves with formal observances (2 Timothy 3:5). In these ends there can be no real pleasure in what is done. But where there is integrity, the heart is engaged, there will be diligence, preparation and prayer, and increasing joy in the worship and service of God (Psalm 33:31; 119:2). God's presence is the attraction and life of all true worship. The more deeply we feel our sinfulness, the more earnestly will be our cry for mercy. The more truly we realize that the will of God is "our sanctification," the more fervently shall we "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

V. THAT INTEGRITY IS ESSENTIAL TO THE ASSURED HOPE OF A BRIGHT FUTURE. (Vers. 9-12.) The very fact of what we are is a prophecy as to destroy (Romans 5:10; Philippians 1:6). Looking to the past, we confess that it is wholly of grace that we have been turned unto God. Looking within, we are conscious of a sincere resolve to follow after holiness. Looking to the future, we are able to cast ourselves with implicit confidence on the care of God our Saviour. God is true, and he will not forsake. God is just, and he will never condemn the righteous with the wicked. It is only those whose hearts are right with God that can face the future without fear. When we commit ourselves to God we are safe. We have not only a sure standing, as accepted in Christ Jesus, but we are comforted by the fellowship of kindred hearts, and cheered by the hope of being kept from falling, and having in the end an "entrance ministered to us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:5-11). - W.F.

It is impossible to say on what occasion the psalm was composed, or from what kind of trouble it prays to be delivered. The theme is - Only he who can say with truth, "I have walked in integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord," may depend upon Divine aid in trouble; but we may do so with full confidence. In the first verse the whole psalm is summed up.

I. A PRAYER FOR HELP IN TROUBLE. "Judge me," equivalent to "vindicate my rights and rescue me from injustice." The only clue to the meaning of the prayer is in the ninth verse, "Take not my soul away with the wicked, and my life with men of blood." He was in some way suffering; but he prays that he may not fall into the utter ruin which is the portion of the wicked - the penalty of daring sin, nor the fatherly chastisement of infirmity. The psalmist's faith was that God could not involve the righteous in destruction with the ungodly, but would separate between them even in their outward lot. This in great part true. "Godliness has the promise of the life that now is " - outwardly and inwardly. So far as we know, the psalmist did not know of any other world where God could interpose to show his approval of the righteous and his disapproval of the wicked.

II. THE GROUND OF THE PSALMIST'S PRAYER. "I have walked in mine integrity, I have trusted in the Lord." But if I have not, do thou show it me (ver. 2). But I think I have; for thy love has been before my eyes, and I continually thought upon thy truth, or faithfulness (ver. 3). The two main grounds on which he prays for help are his morality and piety - integrity and trust, expanded further in the life (ver. 8).

1. His morality. "Integrity," equivalent to "with the mind aiming at the right and true, and with an undivided purpose. He had avoided all voluntary association with the wicked (vers. 4, 5). He would neither go (walk) nor sit with them. All his sympathies went against them, equivalent to "hated them." The company we keep from choice is a true and strong indication of our character.

2. His piety. "I wash my hands," etc. The hands the instruments of action. His actions are cleansed from defilement; and this is his preparation for worship. "If thy brother hath aught against thee... first be reconciled unto thy brother," etc. "I hold fast by thine altar." This placed in opposition to the assembly of the wicked, which he shuns. The purifying of the heart and conduct is naturally followed by worship, and preceded by it. He would proclaim God's wondrous works to the people: only he whose heart is full of them can worthily and truly publish them. He shall come to share in new wonders. He loved the house of God, because there God manifested his glory to him (ver. 8). Manifested himself; and he sees him as Isaiah saw him, "high and lifted up." He fully trusted in the deliverance he sought; for he expected to praise the Lord in the congregation (ver. 12). - S.

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